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Bicycle Racing News and Opinion,
Saturday, September 9, 2017

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2017 Tour de France | 2017 Giro d'Italia

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence. - Vince Lombardi

Current racing:

Latest completed racing:

Vuelta a España stage 19 team reports

Stage winner Thomas de Gendt's Lotto-Soudal team sent me this:

Thomas De Gendt won Stage 19 of La Vuelta. He proved to be the fastest in a sprint contested by the last eight riders left from the day’s large breakaway. De Gendt claimed Lotto Soudal’s fourth stage win in this year’s La Vuelta and consequently completed the trilogy: the 30-year old has won stages in the Giro, the Tour and now the Vuelta.

Today’s stage, between Caso. Parque Natural de Redes and Gijon, was maybe the last opportunity for the breakaway in this year’s edition. One first category and three third category climbs featured the day’s profile, but there was no uphill finish. A large group of nineteen riders, including Thomas De Gendt, broke away right after the start, and they were later joined by seven other riders. The front group was able to build a really big advantage, which at some point reached over seventeen minutes. De Gendt accelerated on the Alto de la Falla de los Lobos and came first at the top of the climb. The breakaway was consequently reduced to twenty-one riders. Garcia attacked twenty-nine kilometres from the finish and opened a one minute gap on his fellow escapees. He was joined by Bardet with fifteen kilometres to go, when the Frenchman left the chasing group behind on the Alto de San Martin de Huerces. However, the duo quickly saw the return of Costa and Roche. The four riders didn’t manage to stay away and De Gendt and four other chasers also came along in the finale. No one could go clear in the last four kilometres and the stage ultimately finished in a sprint. Thomas De Gendt perfectly timed his effort to claim his first ever stage win in La Vuelta. De Gendt had made it a career-goal to win a stage in each Grand Tour and was happy to have done so in this year’s edition.

Thomas de Gendt

Thomas de Gendt wins Vuelta stage nineteen.

Thomas De Gendt: “I started on the first row this morning, because I knew the breakaway once again had a chance today. As expected, Trentin, leader in the points classification, and Villella, leader in the KOM classification, were also ready to go on the attack. A group of nineteen riders was formed, and it quickly grew to twenty-seven, with lots of good riders in it and I therefore thought that my chances to win the stage were not so high. With 60 kilometres to go, I was the first to try to make an early selection in the breakaway, as I was hoping to continue with a smaller group. I knew Bardet was too strong on the climbs, so I mainly focused on Jungels. In the finale we had to chase down Bardet, Garcia, Rui Costa and Roche, who had gone clear on the last steep climb, but we worked well together to close the gap. I know that I’m not slow in a sprint with a reduced number of riders, but I thought that I’d better ride the sprint of my life if I wanted to take the stage win. Garcia surprised me a little, but then he slowed down and I won by a comfortable margin.”

“After Tomasz Marczynski’s first win the pressure fell off the team’s shoulders, but we stayed focused. Since then, it’s been better and better. I had said before the Vuelta that the fulfilment of the “trilogy” was an objective for the rest of my career, but I didn’t think it would be done this year. I didn’t feel great in the first week, then a bit better in the second week and I’ve been feeling even better this week, but the course didn’t really suit me. My coach told me that I had to be patient and that I would finally have good legs. I surprised myself today, but I like such surprises!”

After yesterday’s time trial, the Tour of Britain had yet another sprint stage in store today. Stage 6 started in Newmarket and finished in Aldeburgh, for a total distance of 186 kilometres. Lotto Soudal rider James Shaw and six other riders went clear but they never managed to build a big gap on the peloton. Despite working well together, the bunch kept getting closer as the finish line loomed. Shaw launched one final attack in the last five kilometres, but the Britton was reeled in one kilometre later. The stage came down to a bunch sprint for the fifth time in this Tour of Britain, and Caleb Ewan crossed the line in first place, ahead of Gaviria and Goenewegen. Enzo Wouters sprinted to a fine seventh place. James Shaw was awarded the prize for most combative rider.

And here's what race leader Chris Froome's Team Sky had to say after the stage:

Chris Froome enjoyed a trouble-free stage 19 at the Vuelta a Espana to carry the red jersey into Saturday’s decisive test.

Crossing the line in Gijon flanked by five Team Sky team-mates, Froome was able to conserve some valuable energy on the penultimate mountain test and finished surrounded by all his main GC rivals.

That ensured he retained his race lead of one minute and 37 seconds going into a brutally tough 20th stage, which is set to decide the race.

Team Sky were equal to the task, happy to let a breakaway head up the road to contest the stage win, and stepping up on the final climb of the Alto de San Martin de Huerces. It was there that Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafedo) launched yet another attack off the front. Despite a reaction from Ilnur Zakarin (Katusha-Alpecin), Sky held firm and helped ride down the move on the run-in with 2.5km to go.

Up ahead two groups combined to create a 27-man breakaway on a stage that lent itself perfectly to an escape. After an exciting late battle two sets of attackers came back together in the final kilometre, with Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) staying cool to win the sprint.

Chris Froome

Chris Froome has just two more stages to go.

Froome was happy to put another stage behind him on the road to Madrid, but has his sights firmly fixed on Saturday's final GC test, which features the fearsome Alto de l'Angliru. He said: “For us today it was about trying to save as much energy for tomorrow and get through the day with any big issues. I’m happy to put today behind us and focus everything on tomorrow now.

“It’s an extremely hard climb and I don’t think it’s just going to be about the final tomorrow, it’s a very short stage, just 120km and we’ll expect fireworks from the start tomorrow and some other tough climbs as well before Angliru. The whole stage we have to be ready for anything.

“Everyone is tired at this point, but I’m good and the team is good so hopefully we can finish it off tomorrow.”

UAE Team Emirates sent me this Vuelta update:

A dramatic last few hundred meters on stage 19 of the Vuelta a Espana saw UAE Team Emirates’ rider Rui Costa cross the finishing line in fourth place in a restricted sprint. Portuguese cyclist and his teammate Mohoric, himself already a stage winner at this year’s race, produced an attacking display of undeniable class as they formed part of the long breakaway for the day consisting of 26 riders.

The stage eventually victory went to Thomas De Gendt (Belgium) of Lotto Soudal, whilst Chris Froome (Team Sky) retained the Red Jersey. UAE Team Emirates’ South African General Classification (GC) specialist, Louis Meintjes, maintained his 14th position in the overall standings.

Commenting on his top five finish, former World Champion Rui Costa said: “Today I was aware that it was important to be in the breakaway and I was waiting for that bit of luck that I have missed on previous stages. I succeeded in being amongst the attackers, however I am sad that I didn’t win, especially since my legs felt great and the victory seemed achievable. I was really focused in the last part of the stage and very strong on the final climb – I gave my best until the end, but ultimately I missed the victory which is obviously disappointing.”

A short 117.5km course sees riders tackle two category one climbs, and one HC category climb, during Stage 20 on Saturday. Climbers will be keen to see the mountains and form a breakaway, whilst sprinters will be wary of the brutal 22% incline on some of today’s climbs. This stage has a reputation for producing the overall Vuelta winner, so attacking rides from GC contenders should be expected.

Caleb Ewan on a tear the the Tour of Britain

Ewen's Orica-Scott team sent me this report:

23-year-old Caleb Ewan had claimed an impressive third stage win at the OVO Tour of Britain with a convincing sprint on today’s stage six.

ORICA-SCOTT worked for the majority of the stage, leading the peloton to control the distance to a breakaway of seven riders that escaped in the early stages of the 186kilometre stage.

In the final, lead-out duo Roger Kluge and Luka Mezgec worked to get the young Australian into a good position and after the final corner, Ewan launched from out of the wheels, established a gap and held on until the line for the victory.

“It was another pretty tough day again, not really straight forward as the weather was pretty bad all day,” Ewan said. “The team rode so well, we stayed up near the front out of trouble all day and the guys again did a prefect job at the end.”

“There was a bit of sketchy moment in the final corner and I had to go early. I had a little bit of a gap coming out of the corner but everybody was coming back into positions so I took the chance to jump.

“It was a little bit earlier than I wanted to go but I wanted to get into my aero position and hold as much speed as possible so it is great to hold on and get another stage win here. Tomorrow is going to be pretty tough but the last stage could be a bunch sprint again.”

Caleb Ewen

Caleb Ewan wins Tour of Britain stage six.

How it happened:

After yesterday’s time trial stage, the riders headed to the start line in Newmarket ready for stage six, a 186kilometre fairly flat day but with the presence of rain.

After a fast start and 25kilometres of racing, seven riders rode out to two and a half minutes ahead of the peloton and the situation remained that way for most of the day as the kilometres ticked down.

The rain continued to pour as ORICA-SCOTT and Lotto-JumboNL set a steady tempo at the front of the bunch, not giving the leaders too much freedom.

Team Sky joined in with the chase and with 10kilometres to go the gap was down to just 30seconds as the breakaway started to attack in a last chance attempt. With just three kilometres remaining, the race was all back together again with Kluge, Mezgec and Ewan up at the front of the peloton in the perfect position with one kilometre to go.

Out of the final corner, Ewan jumped and put distance between himself and the others to claim his third stage victory for the team.

Team BMC reports on the GP de Québec

8 September, 2017, Québec City (CAN): Greg Van Avermaet stepped onto the podium at GP Cycliste de Québec for the fourth time in his career today after securing second place behind winner Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) in a nail-biting sprint to the line.

After a flurry of early attacks over the first of 16 laps of a 12.6km circuit, which included a series of puncheur-style climbs and a long drag to the line, a four-rider breakaway went clear and built up an advantage which was sitting at over nine minutes after 40km of racing.

As the race reached the halfway point and crossed the line to start lap nine, the peloton, with Manuel Senni putting in an impressive effort to set the pace, had pulled the breakaway back to 7'55" before the chase really started to pick up heading inside the final 60km of the day.

With three laps to go, the main bunch trailed the remaining three breakaway riders by 3'30" as a solid display of teamwork from BMC Racing Team saw Van Avermaet protected and well-positioned going into the final.

Just two riders were left out at the front of the race as the peloton brought the gap down to under one minute before the final rider was caught with 16km to go and despite various attacks, the bunch was all together as the bell rang to mark the start of the final lap around Québec City.

Inside 10km to go, Jempy Drucker was up at the front of the peloton controlling the pace with Van Avermaet tucked neatly behind Danilo Wyss and Michael Schär in preparation for a fast and furious finale with a series of late attacks being quickly reeled in. 

The race was wide open when the bunch sprint was launched with 250m to go as Van Avermaet powered through the field and, while he was unable to overtake Sagan before the line, his impressive turn of speed saw him hold of his chasers to eventually cross line in second place.

Peter Sagan

Peter Sagan wins in Québec

Greg Van Avermaet:

"It was a pretty similar race to last year. I lost Sagan's wheel a little when he went, and I couldn't have come past him, so I am pretty happy about my race. I would love to win here but second is not too bad. I am happy with my shape now, and the team did a great job to put me in a good position on the final climbs. Maybe with a little extra luck, I can win here."

"For me, the most important thing is that I still have a lot of power in my legs over the last kilometer and from there, whether you win or not, is all in the details. Today I was second, and hopefully, when we go to Montreal, I can repeat the same result as last year."

Manuel Senni:

"It was a good day. I tried at the beginning to control the breakaway as we didn't want to let any teams like Bora-hansgrohe or Team Sunweb get in the breakaway. After that, I started to keep control of the gap, and I was pulling at the front of the bunch and did my job for Greg Van Avermaet and the team until around five or six laps to go. The other guys then took over and did a great job and put Greg into a good position to be able to make the podium."

"It is always nice when you work a lot and then you see your captain finish strong and secure a good result. It's a great feeling every time."

Sports Director, Fabio Baldato:

"We are happy with today's race. It went how we planned and how we expected with the race coming down to Greg Van Avermaet, Peter Sagan, and Michael Matthews. Greg was in a good position in the wheel of Sagan at the end, but he was just stronger today. It was a similar race to last year, and Greg did a great job, and this will only motivate him more for Sunday's race and also for the UCI World Championships."

"The team also did a great job. They were amazing and executed our plan perfectly. Sometimes you have an idea of what you want to happen, and it doesn't work out, but with the strength of the team we have here, they were able to do exactly what we wanted and keep the situation calm for Greg in the peloton before putting him into the best position possible for the final."

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